Jury Finds Former Maui Jail Guard James Siugpiyemal Guilty of Sexual Assault


WAILUKU — A former Maui Community Correctional Center guard was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting an inmate while he worked at the jail three years ago.

A 2nd Circuit Court jury returned verdicts finding James Siugpiyemal guilty of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault.

The jury found Siugpiyemal, 44, not guilty of two other charges of second-degree sexual assault.

The inmate, a 36-year-old Kihei woman, reported that Siugpiyemal had threatened to have her work furlough privileges taken away after he saw a photo of her wearing a bikini that she had posted on Facebook. He called her and the two exchanged text messages before she reported having sexual contact with Siugpiyemal on July 31, 2014, and Aug. 11, 2014, in her car at Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

During the second incident, she turned on a camera in her car to record a video, which was played during the trial.

The woman said she made the video because she didn’t think anyone would believe her.

“Even inmates like (the victim) deserve equal protection under the law,” Deputy Prosecutor Iwalani Gasmen said during closing arguments to the jury Friday morning.

She said that the video shows Siugpiyemal grabbing and putting his mouth on the woman’s breast and shows the two having sex. Afterward, Siugpiyemal is heard telling the woman, “Don’t tell anybody,” Gasmen said.

She said Siugpiyemal refers to a truck nearby and says, “I hope they don’t know you. I hope they don’t know me.”

“He knows he’s done something wrong,” Gasmen said.

At the time, the woman, who testified she has been incarcerated for most of her adult life, was close to being paroled from a 10-year prison term for first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, third-degree theft and unauthorized possession of confidential personal information, Gasmen said.

Instead of focusing on the victim’s prior record, Gasmen asked jurors to focus on what Siugpiyemal did.

“He, as an officer, abused his authority,” she said. “He used his leverage, basically, to solicit sex.”

Siugpiyemal worked as an adult corrections officer at the Wailuku jail from 2013 to October 2014, when he resigned.

Defense attorney Ben Lowenthal, in his closing arguments, said that Siugpiyemal had been placed on unpaid leave for violating workplace policy after the inmate made the report.

“There was no crime,” Lowenthal said.

Although the inmate said she wasn’t allowed to use social media as part of a work furlough contract she signed, Lowenthal said that in the contract, “there is no such condition, she lied about that.”

Lowenthal said the woman “has been using drugs and when you are addicted to drugs, that leads to lying and cheating and stealing.”

He said there was no proof for the July 31, 2014, allegation of second-degree sexual assault. That was one charge that Siugpiyemal was acquitted of.

He also was acquitted of one second-degree sexual assault charge from Aug. 11, 2014.

Lowenthal called the woman’s video “a movie” that she turned over to her longtime lawyer, who has filed a lawsuit against the state on her behalf.

To find Siugpiyemal guilty, the jury was required to find that he was employed in a state correctional facility and that the victim had been sentenced to incarceration when the acts occurred.

Under the law, “an inmate is not capable of consenting to sexual relations with a guard,” Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Coccaro told jurors.

She said the law also says a guard cannot have sexual relations with an inmate.

“It does not matter whether he was on or off duty,” Coccaro said.

Siugpiyemal, who resigned from his job Oct. 9 as police began an investigation, left the state and was brought back to face the charges last year from Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia.

His sentencing was set for Oct. 3.

Siugpiyemal is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

Judge Joseph Cardoza presided over the trial, which began Monday with jury selection.

Source: http://www.mauinews.com